How do I make the interior of my car really clean?



AAA Northeast Automotive Physician John Paul answers a question from a reader who is unhappy with the way his vacuum works.

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Q I hope that’s not a silly question. What is the best way to vacuum the interior of the car? My household vacuum cleaner does not deep clean. The car wash has vacuum cleaners, but I still can’t do a good cleaning. There always seems to be some sand or dirt left when I’m done.

A. There are times when you have to use shampoo and an extractor to clean carpets. Good retail stores will vacuum up dirt and debris and then use a portable carpet cleaner. The soap and water loosen dirt and stains, and the extractor sucks up the water. As a DIY approach, mix water and dish detergent, then use the suds and a scrub brush. You don’t want the rugs to be too wet, just damp. Once you are satisfied that the carpets are clean, vacuum with a wet/dry vacuum. If the carpets are still damp, leave the doors open a bit or install a fan in the car to dry out the interior. There are no silly questions.

Q I have an old rear wheel drive car with a V-8 engine and an automatic transmission. The car has only 55,000 miles. The car has a high speed vibration at 40mph and 70mph. I’ve had stores look at the car and they can’t figure it out. The tires have been checked and are in balance. Also, I had the water pump and fan clutch replaced along with the drive belts and harmonic balancer. The engine runs very well and the transmission has been redone. The driveshaft was replaced with a new one, which improved the situation, but the vibration is still there.

A. Since the vibrations improved after replacing the driveshaft, I would continue to focus on this area. I would look at the driveshaft angle and also put a dial indicator on the driveshaft to see that it is working properly. You can also try balancing the driveshaft while it’s in the car. This can be accomplished with a few large radiator clamps using them as balance weights. If you could find someone with a vibration measuring tool or even an old Reed vibrometer, that might help identify the vibrations. The problem could be an unbalanced torque converter or even a poor fit between the engine and the transmission.

Q I recently purchased a Cadillac XT5 and found it had no spares or jack. The Cadillac dealer says a full-size tire won’t fit in the tire well, and the compact tires that were once an optional purchase are no longer available. I am very uncomfortable driving a vehicle without a spare tire, even if they are run-flat tires. Several tire shops I’ve called say they don’t sell compact tires. Am I worrying for nothing?

A. A run-flat tire has a stiff sidewall that allows the car to be driven without air in the tire. True run-flat tires will get you home. Generally, 50 to 100 miles of driving at speeds below 50 miles per hour is suggested. Some cars have conventional tires without a spare but include an air compressor and tire sealant. I drive all kinds of new cars, some without spare tires, and while I would prefer a spare, knowing that I can at least get to a tire shop to fix or replace the tire makes me feel better. Your Cadillac has a mobility kit, air compressor and sealant. This is handy if one of your tires has a slow leak. At least you could pump it up to the right pressure and hopefully get the tire fixed. Still, I would prefer a spare tire. In my opinion, even a compact spare tire is better than no spare tire.

Q I have an unusual problem with my 2012 Mercedes Benz E350 4Matic. The car runs great, drives well and only has 60,000 miles. However, when I’m driving and take my foot off the throttle, then step on the throttle to pick up speed, there’s a slight growl or vibration that lasts for a second or two. This situation is intermittent. It seems to happen at any speed. What could be the cause of this situation? I’m afraid to go to the Mercedes dealer because of the potential costs. Am I in for a big repair bill?

A. I suspect a problem with the AWD system transfer case, which is an integral part of the transmission. The condition is sometimes called jerkiness and usually occurs when turning slightly and accelerating. There is no easy or cheap fix if this is the problem. You have two choices at this point: live with it or fix it. If you can live with it, the transmission can take a very long time. If you choose to fix it now, or even when it gets worse, it will cost you dearly. Just to verify what I suspected, I called a local Mercedes dealership to try and get a quote and was told to expect to pay at least $5,000 for the repairs.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE Certified Master Technician. Email your question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at

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